Monthly Archives: October 2021

Spotlight: Betty McGaha

Betty McGaha

Maintaining the inside of the rifle pit requires constant work throughout the year. Leaves fall in the spring and fall, compacting into wet and heavy loads. Trees and branches fall as a result of hurricanes or strong winds that are typical along the coast. Heavy rain brings both water and dirt. The Stabilization tab at the top of the website includes a journal that shows the work that’s been required through the years.

Three years ago in 2018, local Boy Scouts volunteered their time to clear the pit.

Nearly two years ago, in December 2019, Betty McGaha stepped up and offered her time to shovel the heavy debris. Betty spent five days of hard work inside the rifle pit. The west end of the pit was completely cleared, as shown here. She also worked at the entrance, which had accumulated a lot of heavy debris.

Betty has two brigadier generals in her family – her husband (retired) and her daughter. She strongly supports the preservation of this unique World War I structure.

We thank Betty McGaha for her labor and continuous support of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range! The financial support that Betty and her husband Doyle have provided through the years is also very much appreciated.

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Okey Tucker offers his services for the rifle range restoration

Okey measures the window before installing a plexiglass window.
The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range is pleased to announce that Okey Tucker, a local consulting environmental engineer, has offered his professional services, pro bono, to rehabilitate the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Mr. Tucker was born and raised in West Virginia until 2019, when he moved full time to Oak Island. Okey and Andrea, his wife of 38 years, had vacationed on Oak Island over the years with their children Sarah and Okey III. They even celebrated their marriage on Oak Island.

Okey graduated with a BS in chemical engineering in 1983 from the WV Institute of Technology in Montgomery, WV. He was employed as an environmental engineer for the State of West Virginia. He currently serves as a consulting senior engineer working from home.

He was an assistant Boy Scout master when his son was growing up and now he and Andrea volunteer for the Caswell Beach Turtle Watch program. He also has a long history of experience in all aspects of home building and improvements.

The initial projects for the rifle range include the installation of a plexiglass window, step improvements for safely entering the rifle range, lowering of the shoring inside for ease of navigation, and a gate system designed for the safety of visitors and animals.

Okey’s plan for the future is to consult with The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range and the State Historic Preservation Office concerning a roof system for the rifle pit’s Storage Room, located on the east end of the pit.

No Trespassing signs are positioned in various places around the rifle range property to protect and alert folks, especially children, that they are not to go into the property.

There is much more work to be completed. We welcome Okey Tucker and we thank him for helping to save the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range!

Read the announcement about Okey in the Brunswick Beacon.

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Introducing our book at the NC Maritime Museum exhibit, September 18-19, 2021

Mary Snead and neighbor Melody visiting the museum and the Great War display.
The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range introduced our book, Brunswick County in the Great War, with an exhibit at the World War I and Life-Saving Service Living History Weekend in the NC Maritime Museum.

President Norma Eckard, one of the three authors, presented the book at the exhibit. The 584 page book contains 7 significant parts; each was shown in 7 separate notebooks to make it easier for the public to review.

Tri-folds showed the story of the last 10 years and how the mission of saving the rifle range grew to include the writing of Brunswick County in the Great War.

“The book is a valuable resource for all history buffs”, said Eckard. “College and high school students can also benefit by using the book to enhance their World and US History courses by reading the profiles of local men who left their farms to support France in the war.

“Professors and high school history teachers may provide a number of activities, using the book to embellish their students’ studies and emphasize the patriotism within their communities of 102 years ago. The Cape Fear Region is rich in military history as well as a population who responds to resources like this book. I can envision students interviewing descendants of many of the veterans.”

Brunswick County in the Great War includes more than some of the stories of local men and one woman who served. The 14 nurses from Fort Caswell who served during WWI are also presented in the book. In addition, there is a WWI Wall of Honor that includes brief biographies of men from outside of Brunswick County who served, submitted by the many supporters of the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Spreadsheets (see the webpage on this website) are included in the book with all of the men and one woman who served from Brunswick County and nearby counties, listing their residence, date of birth, death, unit, age, rank, cemetery, and when they were discharged. The 718 men and one woman who served were honored by donations to support the purchase of a monument placed beside the rifle range in 2018, the Centennial year of the entrance of the United States in the Great War.

The State Port Pilot included a photo display in the September 23, 2021, edition, seen here.

Norma enjoyed learning more about WWI from the presenters near her exhibit. The photos at right and below include USMC officer Peter Meyer displaying the guns used during the Great War. The machine gun shown was too heavy to carry into battle. The bottom rifle is a “Springfield” that was used the most by the infantry in WWI. Peter had many military experiences to share with the public.

Also pictured, Daniel Jutson served in the Signal Corps for 28 years and retired as a captain. Daniel had many artifacts to share with the public. It was quite an extraordinary display.

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